You’ll learn how Mike leveraged Discord to:
- Get vital player feedback
- Build an excited community
- Support the game on launch
We dig the decision to bring the in-game factions inside of Discord. It’s an awesome way to keep people engaged and connected with the community. We’re also stoked and surprised by how players helped flip negative reviews to positive after launch.
If you’re looking for some more beginner-level server set up, check out this old community building post we dug up and dusted off from 2015. It’s still relevant. Mostly. Kinda.
Anyway, now for Mike…
When we were planning the announcement for Descenders, we knew that we wanted Discord to play a huge role in what we were cooking up. We’ve all been Discord fans for a while now and have watched how influential the platform has become — but on top of that, building a community for your game has become one of the best ways to ensure success, especially with the sheer volume of games being released every day. As a result, it made way too much sense for us to build our Descenders community through Discord from the very beginning.
But, simply throwing up a Discord server and hoping people join isn’t how we roll. We wanted to offer potential community members real reasons to join us on Discord, via beta access, exclusive content, meta-games, ARGS, the works.
What we didn’t realize at the time was just how integral our Discord community would be in shaping how Descenders has evolved. From community feedback, to language translations, to realizing the key strengths of the game, to supporting our game sales and ratings on launch, our community has helped to mold our vision into the game you see today and set us up for success moving forward.
That’s Cool, I Have No Idea Who You Are
I’m Mike Rose from publishing label No More Robots and I’m working with Dutch studio RageSquid on an extreme downhill biking game titled Descenders. The game launched last month on Steam and is coming to consoles very soon.
Descenders is a mountain biking game featuring procedurally generated worlds and roguelite elements through which your bone-crunching mistakes have real consequences on your progression through the ranks.https://cdn.embedly.com/widgets/media.html?type=text%2Fhtml&key=a19fcc184b9711e1b4764040d3dc5c07&schema=twitter&url=https%3A//twitter.com/ragesquid/status/976104173480628224&image=https%3A//i.embed.ly/1/image%3Furl%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fpbs.twimg.com%252Fext_tw_video_thumb%252F976103651663020033%252Fpu%252Fimg%252FD9zzHuNnlQtYxUQP.jpg%26key%3Da19fcc184b9711e1b4764040d3dc5c07
From early on in development, it became obvious to us that Descenders was going to benefit heavily from community involvement. We had this whole explosion of features we wanted to add to the game but weren’t sure which features would be most sought after. Rather than trying to guess what people wanted out of a mountain biking game, it made more sense to, you know, ask people!
How Do You Start a Video Game Community?
The biggest question for me was: What makes someone want to join a community? Why would someone choose to join my Discord server? What could I possibly offer that would make sense for them to not only join, but then also stick around?
The answer, it turned out, was kinda simple:
- People want free stuff
- People want exclusive stuff
- People want to feel like they’re part of something
Here’s how I aimed to fulfill these desires:
- Give everyone who joined our Discord server free access to the Descenders beta
- Post exclusive Descenders stuff regularly for Discord members
- Create an entire meta-game within the Discord server
The first two points are fairly self-explanatory. Everyone who wanted to try the game earlier had to join our Discord and throw some simple details into a Google form. Once they had, we’d give them exclusive screenshots, updates, livestreams, GIFs, videos, etc. Everything they could possibly want from the game.
The meta-game aspect excited me the most. What sort of game could I build within Discord that would not only make people want to stick around but also bring them together as a community?
The Meta-Game Begins
In Descenders, you pick one of three teams to join. Team Enemy are all about slick stunts while Team Arboreal focus on off-road action. Meanwhile, Team Kinetic are the game’s speed demons. Once you pick your team, you’re given exclusive missions, gear, and colors based on that team.
Using Dyno, the popular Discord bot, I created a series of custom commands that would introduce each newcomer to our server into the meta-game. When you initially join the server, your username is white and you’re only granted access to a small number of channels.
When you visit the #pick-a-side channel, it asks you to type either !enemy, !arboreal or !kinetic to pick a team. Once you choose, the #pick-a-side channel disappears and the rest of the server is opened up — including channels that are exclusive to your team. Your name also becomes the same color as the team you picked.
The plan was then simple: Each week, we would pit these three teams against one other in a variety of challenges, ranging from custom kit design competitions to “which team can write the best Descenders haiku?”
When we announced Descenders last summer, the server was an immediate hit and we quickly built up a community of over 4000 members. The weekly challenges worked great and each team enjoyed politely trash talking each other in the #trash-talk channel we’d created.
There were even community members who stuck team stickers on their bike helmets and filmed themselves trashing the other teams.
We created custom emotes for each team and gave them exclusive prizes in their team channels when they won a weekly challenge. The meta-game worked out pretty damn well!
It Gets Even Beta
Soon afterwards, we ran the Descenders closed beta through Discord. We announced the beta date via an ARG that we distributed in the server. We expected our community to take a few days to decipher a riddle that we dropped into the server, as it involved pretty damn obscure solutions like looking through Google Maps images and playing RageSquid’s previous game — but they’d solved it two hours later which was kinda mind blowing.
Everyone in the server was sent a Steam beta key and for one weekend we let them all go wild. Thousands of people signed up and our Discord server was in a constant meltdown the entire time — the good kind.
The community posted thoughts, screenshots, GIFs, videos, fan art… we ended up putting together a supercut of some of the best beta footage.
We also ended up with tons of valuable feedback from the Discord community. We had a #bug-reporting channel, a channel for requesting features, a channel for players to show off their skills via videos and GIFs. It allowed us to connect directly with our players throughout the beta and get their immediate, honest feedback at all times.
As a thank you after the full launch, we gave everyone who was a part of the beta a special beta kit within the game to say thanks for taking part. It was the least we could do!
The benefits to having a Discord community for Descenders go on and on. Members of our community have created kits, banners and boards for the game, while giving us a variety of ideas that we have eventually followed up on and added to the game.
Furthermore, certain aspects of game development became a whole lot easier thanks to our server. For example, we asked which languages our community would like the game to be translated into. Within a few days, we’d found multiple members of our community who wanted to help translate the game, and after providing them with the English text via a Google Sheet, we had all the text in the game translated into a variety of languages, including French, Dutch, German, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Russian… We’re so happy that these players will be able to enjoy the game in their native languages.
One of the biggest pros has been having a direct method for finding out exactly what players enjoy about the game and where we should be expanding the game. For example, within a week of the game launching, our Discord community was clamoring for a way to generate levels based on a specific seed.
We had no idea this would be such a popular request! It was actually relatively easy to add, so three weeks after launch, we added this feature as an entirely new mode and our community exploded all over again.
Speaking of launch, it’s worth stressing that all of these positives definitely carried over into the launch of the game. From the moment the game launched on February 9th, our Discord community started buying it in spades and we rocketed into the Top Sellers list within the space of 30 minutes.
The 10% launch discount didn’t activate for 25 minutes after we hit the live button, so we told our community to wait until it kicked in. Tons of them purposely ignored us and bought it full price just so that they could be the first to play. We love them all a bit too much.
It wasn’t just sales that came out of our community — there were plenty of other cool side-effects that we hadn’t considered. For example, our community piled positive ratings onto the Steam page, quickly leaving us with a 90% user rating that hasn’t gone away.
And whenever someone does leave a negative review or a bad comment on the Steam forums, someone from our community spots it immediately and tries to resolve the player’s problem. This has actually lead to multiple negative reviews being flipped into positive which, as you’d imagine, has been rather amazing for the game.
Our Discord has been a buzz of activity since the game launched last month, and it hasn’t showed any signs of slowing down. When someone new pops in to ask for help or simply to give their thoughts on the game, our members welcome them, suggest they pick a team, and then bring them into the fray. It’s a wonderful atmosphere for new players to be introduced to and we don’t have to lift a finger — our community does it all for us.
Our experience with building a Discord community for Descenders has been incredible and I now have plans to incorporate Discord into every game I publish.
In fact, No More Robots announced our second title today called Not Tonight, and the Discord server for Not Tonight is even more ridiculous, with tiered roles and “jobs” that members can do to earn higher accolades and special prizes.
Community has always been a great device to build a video game around and that is more true now than ever before. You should be thinking about how Discord is going to fit around your game launch — it’ll be one of the best things you do.
Thanks Mike for sharing all the cool ways Discord can be used to empower a game’s community. We’re super excited to see how his next server plays out!
For similar reading, check out How to Build an Active Indie Game Community With Discord by the developers of Tooth and Tail.
Looking for more ways to use Discord with your game? Verify your server so people know your server is legit. Furthermore, make your game standout with Rich Presence integration — let people join, spectate, and share your game in Discord.